“This is as good as it gets.” That was the thought that occurred to me as I was settling into the recliner for a nap, and it gave me a huge laugh. I’m going to explain the cause for laughter Southern style, but if you get bored you can scroll to the end.
After I retired, I was only driving my old 1984 Volvo a couple of times a month; almost everything I need is within walking distance. When Zipcars became available in my neighborhood last year, I decided I could rent if I really needed a car, and I could get rid of the Volvo. California has an early retirement program for old cars, paying $650 and then crushing them.
Still, walking takes time, and most of my errands took me along busy streets, where I was breathing more exhaust than I would like, even though Oakland’s air is fairly clean by urban standards, what with breezes coming in off the bay. Being a little something of a techno-geek, I was looking for a green bridge vehicle between walking and driving, and last summer, after much deliberation, I put together an electric bicycle, on which I got a couple of rides before it was stolen.
I had ridden the bike just enough to learn that I didn’t feel comfortable riding it on the street, which ruled out electric scooters and motorcycles, which I had also been considering. I decided to get rid of the Volvo anyway, which I did last September. I bought a wonderful little tagalong shopping cart, and found I almost never needed to rent a car.
But by April of this year, it started bothering me that walking everywhere was eating into my creative time, and there was still the pollution issue. I had ruled out the Segway in my earlier deliberations because of the expense, but there was a dealer across the lake from me, Segway of Oakland, and after taking a tour on one, I decided to spring for it.
I’ve had it almost five months now, and I love it. Besides cutting down the time it takes to get around the ‘hood, I range a little further than I would if I were walking: over to Piedmont, Rockridge, and even a couple of times to the Home Depot in Emeryville. I’ve also taken it on BART over to the city a few times, and gone further than I ever did just walking.
In addition, the more I rode it, the more comfortable I became with it, and the more fun it was to ride, which, unfortunately, led to my current condition.
I had been to the gym, so was a little tired—maybe less alert than usual—and was on my way to Ace Hardware when I encountered a car parked in a driveway, blocking the sidewalk. It’s legal to ride a Segway on the street, but I prefer sidewalks, both to avoid traffic and because it’s more fun with the little hazards I have to avoid. To get around the car, I would have to get one wheel in the dirt and go over a little curb, and the further from the car I got, the higher the curb. My brain decided to get as close to the car as possible, but it miscalculated, and I was going too fast. The right wheel of the Segway didn’t quite clear the underside of the car’s bumper, and when it hit, it stopped, catapulting me onto the concrete.
I have a very clear memory of everything up to the point of contact with the bumper, but there is a total blank from that moment to the one where I found myself on my left side in the driveway, propped on my left forearm—which apparently took most of the force of impact—watching the Segway roll down the sidewalk till it tilted forward and crashed, unharmed. I have no sensation of flying through the air, no image of the approaching concrete, and no feeling of contact when I landed. It seems very strange to me to have such an experience with absolutely no mental record—oh well…
I got up and dusted myself off as I walked over to retrieve the Segway, and while my left arm was mildly uncomfortable, there was no indication of injury. I finished my errand, and went home to examine myself more closely.
I had some very mild abrasions on my forearm, and that arm was still a little uncomfortable, but I seemed not much the worse for it till the next day, and the day after, and for three weeks now. It seems I strained every muscle in that arm, upper and lower, and a bruise appeared that wrapped around my elbow and down several inches of the forearm. Over time the bruise went from blue, to orange, to now, a pale yellow. At first, I had a very limited range of pain-free motion, but the arm works fairly normally now except for a limited capacity to bear weight without pain, and some twisting motions of the wrist that bring a jab in one particular forearm muscle.
So as I was settling into my chair for a nap, I did so with ice packs on the upper and lower sides of the left forearm—I ice it down a couple or three times a day, which helps. And yet, I felt blissfully happy, which is my most frequent state of mind, and that’s when “This is as good as it gets,” popped into consciousness, in full sincerity, with no hint of irony, which, I think, is why it brought on laughter.
I have been laughing a lot since the accident, every time I feel a jolt of pain. Even though I would very much prefer not to have that experience, somehow it seems amusing. I would so much prefer not having it that I have been riding much more cautiously these last three weeks. Fortunately, riding the Segway doesn’t require any of the force or movements that cause pain, and I’ve been riding it on my errands, as usual. Riding carefully, and more slowly, is not as much fun, but I realize that I was lucky. I could have broken bones, with any number of more serious injuries than I actually have.
I have probably talked more about adapting to changed circumstances in Bare Brains, particularly Episodes Five and Six, than I have written about here, but briefly: we are all going to get old, if we’re lucky, losing various abilities along the way, culminating in frailty of one kind or another and death. While we have a tendency to pretend that we’ll stay young forever, science hasn’t progressed that far yet, and in the meantime, learning to adapt to loss is conducive to happiness.
If I never recover from the accident any more than I have so far, I will be happy. I’ve been practicing…
Youth and Age